Kasper Staub Trio – “Havnepladen”

April 25, 2014


Kasper Staub - "Havnepladen"The indistinct form that is the Kasper Staub Trio‘s Havnepladen never fully comes into focus.  The melodies warble and quiver and all the edges are fuzzy, as if viewed through the bleary eyes of a late-night drunk.  Rhythms consist of boozy perambulations, insinuating patterns rather than stating them definitively.  The album possesses a gait that behaves as if half-way to sleep, half-way to a most glorious sonic epiphany.  The album’s consistency to this effect is one where it’s safe to say it was intentional.  But intentional or not, the resulting entity has a personable charm that is easy to embrace.

The shimmering melody of “Hjem” is a campfire slowly dwindling, which then bursts in a shower of orange embers as the last of kindling collapses in on itself, providing one final display of warmth and light before ceding to the penultimate darkness.  A similar melodic effect occurs on “Resonate” as the mere trickle of a melody suddenly spills from the cup of the song, spreading everywhere.  It’s this perpetual expansion and regression that characterizes the album’s strength.

The bundle of activity that is “Jeg vil ik hjem” charts a similar course, but with a more pronounced tempo, providing a fluid, though staggered motion.  This gets taken to an extreme with “Ritual,” ramping up its dispossession of form, and its bustling motion nearly steps accidentally into a free jazz expression… an act which, curiously, neatly bundles it up into something distinctive and whole.  A similar scenario almost plays out on “Verdenskort,” which swings to the opposite end of the spectrum with a display of quiet, casual elegance.

But more often than not, the album is signified by tracks like “Rodinia,” with its whiplash tempo changes and “Omvej,” with its increasingly diffuse melodicism.

An album with character, even if it’s a little fuzzy at the edges.

Your album personnel:  Kasper Staub (grand piano), Jens Mikkel (double bass), Anders Vestergaard (drums).

The album is Self-Produced.

Jazz from the Copenhagen, Denmark scene.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon MP3


Other things you should probably know:

I Think You're Awesome - "Loft Mig Op Sa Jeg Kan Na"Both Staub and bassist Mikkel are members of the ensemble I Think You’re Awesome, recently reviewed here on Bird is the Worm.  Both ensembles perform the song “Jeg vil ik hjem,” too.  Here’s a LINK to that review.  Go read it and listen to the music.  It’s really quite special.

De Beren Gieren – “A Raveling”

April 22, 2014


De Beren Gieren - "A Raveling"Tumbling down a flight of stairs is not an action one takes willingly, and yet the sudden changes in tempo performed at a high rate of speed by the piano trio De Beren Gieren seem to indicate the kind of personality that might not shrink from that risky combination of ground and gravity.  The heart of A Raveling, the trio’s third album, is rooted in the rhythm, switching up cadences without notice, and with an awkward fluidity that adds to the music’s charm.  An album of choppy motions and rough transitions that never fit plumb together, it’s music that keeps the listener on their toes and locked in tight.

And while most tracks are up-tempo, some tunes like “The Detour Fish,” which shifts from a murmur to a growl, and the bluesy stroll of “Sitting on a Fence” establish a pace that respects the need for a little diversity over the course of an album.  There’s also those occasional moments of melodic suffusion, like the delightful pairing of gently cooing piano and the purr of bass arco on “Broensgebuzze VI” and the blissful conflagration of “Ontdekking van Materie,” and these brief flourishes accentuate the album’s rougher edges and provide them an extra boost of personality.

A charming album from a piano trio that does their thing just a little bit differently.

Your album personnel:  Fulco Ottervanger (piano), Lieven Van Pée (bass), and Simon Segers (drums).

The album is Self-Produced, and released on Igloo Circle, which appears to the trio’s own label.

Jazz from the Ledeberg, Ghent, Belgium scene.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon MP3

The North – “Slow Down (This Isn’t the Mainland)”

April 5, 2014


The North - "Slow Down (This Isn't the Mainland)"So, The North opens up Slow Down (This Isn’t the Mainland) as a nice enough modern piano trio recording.  Easy-to-like melodies come out strong with a firm handshake and wide smile, and rhythms maintain a nice conversational chatter… nothing that gets too intricate as to incite a cerebral reaction and nothing too agitated as to become cluttered with unnecessary inflections and personal tics.  And that’s how it proceeds for the first three tracks on this debut album of the trio of Romain Collin, Shawn Conley, and Abe Lagrimas, Jr.

But then fourth track “Join Us Jackson” begins, and the trio suddenly takes it down a gear, and they express their thoughts with a greater care, taking time to draw out the totality of the melody one breath at a time.  It creates a provocative shift, though nuanced it may be, and from there, this likable recording really settles in.

Your album personnel:  Romain Collin (piano), Shawn Conley (bass), and Abe Lagrimas, Jr. (drums).

“Join Us Jackson” has the satisfying brevity of a well-crafted pop tune, delivered with the solemn thoughtfulness of a gospel blues.  Brushes insinuate a swaying motion, punctuated by the occasional tap of sticks.  Piano brings the small but intense light of a brightly burning candle in darkness, with a slowly unwinding melody as a plume of smoke rising up from its flame.  Bass is the shadow that accentuates the melody’s shape and direction.  This is when the trio stamps their mark on the album.

“Dowsett Avenue” moves at a casual pace, too, though the soulful melody asks, and receives, a bit of a groove to bounce ideas off of, resulting in a slow shuffling cadence, nice and easy.  The rendition of Monk’s “Light Blue,” as it turns out, is an odd transition piece from “Dowsett Avenue,” a contrast in styles though not necessarily of expression… the blues speak up on both, and the exaggerated stagger of “Light Blue” is an interesting shift from the casual stroll of the previous track.  Unfortunately, it clashes with the album’s overall progression and stands out all by its lonesome… the kind of thing that cracks a recording built on a foundation of thoughtful melodic expressions.

This contrast becomes further evidenced by “Yann’s Flight,” which returns to an introspective state, even as it occasionally bursts into evocative form.  The cover of Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” is made a melancholy little jingle.  Collin wraps himself tightly around the melody, and the resulting sound of how it shifts and settles in his embrace illustrates how a little change can go a long way, and how simple sublime statements resonate just as powerfully as the most bombastic displays of sonic force.

“Northern Dreams” broods like mad.  Piano and drums slowly pace the room while bass arco whips around them, warping notes… the insinuation of a melody only secondary to establishing a mood.  It’s an approach that works well when sandwiched between the gratifying melodic treatment offered up by the Dylan cover and the album-closer “Stay With Me,” a love song that expresses as much heartbreak as it does hope… a sublime ending to an album that has many such moments.

The album is Self-Produced, released on the trio’s label Dowsett Records.

Available 4/15/14 at:  eMusic | Amazon: CDMP3

Rembrandt Frerichs Trio – “A Long Story Short”

March 13, 2014


Rembrandt Frerichs - "A Long Story Short"A Long Story Short, the new release by the Rembrandt Frerichs Trio, is an album of two phases.  Its most striking feature is a richly conversant rhythmic array, revealing strengths in the dynamics of the details as it does in the delivery of its electric charge.  It is in the uptempo pieces where this particular album’s characteristic is most accurately defined.  But this is also album that slows things down to a contemplative drone, to where the rhythm gets swept up in the melody’s strong and beautiful flow.  The shift between these two phases is presented in a way completely natural, and the contrast between the two binds the album’s individual songs cohesively with as much force as its commonalities.

Your album personnel:  Rembrandt Frerichs (piano, harmonium), Tony Overwater (bass), and Vinsent Planjer (drums).

For the latter phase, it’s Overwater’s bass arco that behaves as the primary melodic device… either by way of statement or accompaniment, its presence is most resonant on a recording that is highly evocative.

“Hedashr,” with its deliberate tempo, is given a warm personality by the strata of Frerich’s piano and harmonium, but it’s Overwater’s cool bass arco carries the greatest weight.  And on tracks “Stav,” and “Long Story Short,” bass arco is in the drivers seat, with Frerichs’ piano accompaniment shadowing its path and marking its shape in partnership with drummer Planier.

As he did on his 2012 release Continental, Frerichs tackles a Coltrane composition.  This time it’s “Naima,” and while using bass arco to lead out on this traditionally introspective piece may seem at first blush like an easy grab at the heartstrings, the trio’s tasteful rendition renders that initial observation obsolete, providing both an honest take on the song while also fitting a bit of moodiness between two upbeat album tracks.

“December” illustrates the trio’s focus on toying with tempo.  Much like how pockets of rapids move at different speeds within the same river’s flow, each trio member sets their site on the song’s horizon line and, at first, proceed as one, but then break apart and head out at their own individual pace… yet still as one.  A different effect comes across on “Once Upon a Time,” which behaves more as a game of leap frog, with the motion created by the perpetual change in position.

“Spring Bells” is all kinds of chipper… a melody light on its toes, and a rhythm that propels it ever upward.  “Elf” ups the ante on both of those fronts, a tidal wave of rhythmic intensity and a pretty melody that hides within it.

Just a real lively and exciting album that allows all kinds of lovliness to shine brightly.

Released on Challenge Records.

Jazz from the Rotterdam, Netherlands scene.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3

Emler Tchamitchian Echampard – “Sad and Beautiful”

February 17, 2014


ETE - "Sad and Beautiful"Andy Emler, Claude Tchamitchian and Eric Echampard (aka ETE) are long-time collaborators.  Their newest album Sad and Beautiful is the third recording of these artists in a trio format.  This, in addition to their work together in Emler’s MegaOctet, has given rise to a certain empathy to the cryptic structures of Emler’s compositions as well as each artist’s peculiar voices that each of the artists possess.  It’s why so much of their music sounds so mysterious and strange, yet reflects a logic and beauty so simple to absorb.

2014′s Sad and Beautiful is the most concrete presentation of this yet.

Your album personnel:  Andy Emler (piano), Claude Tchamitchian (double bass), and Eric Echampard (drums).

As with past recordings, their newest collaboration is exemplified by an uneasy melodicism.  Opening track “A Journey Through Hope” opens with it immediately before breaking into a cant that carries that melody away.  Emler’s piano is a cascade of notes that withdraws and returns with a suddenness that is quite startling, just as it is welcome.  Tchamitchian provides dramatic strikes of lightning with some bass arco, bolstering the turbulence of Eschampard’s drums.

The interlude of “Last Chance” shows the trio’s ability to shift into a melody of a more elegant shapeliness.  The pleasant chatter from drums, the introspective missives from piano, deep sighs from bass.  “Elegances” picks up where the previous interlude left off, but sinks deeper into introspection before ramping things up to finish off the song.

“Second Chance” is a vortex of motion, growing faster as the trio reaches the core of the song.  On “Tee Time,” however, the force of the trio is more vertically directed, charging head first from the first notes, when bass comes out humming, piano taking leaps and bounds, and drums coaxing the intensity ever upward.  The trio slides into expressions of a defined melody that also possesses strong rhythmic implications.  A beautiful middle passage of bass arco, and piano singing just over the top, leads to some atonality when piano alters its voice and cymbals crash down repeatedly.  This, in turn, leads to a conclusion with a hurried demeanor and the delivery of abrupt phrases, contrasting with both the song’s cohesive opening and its serene middle section.  It’s these kinds of changes of expression that symbolizes so much of the strange and mysterious beauty contained in the music of these artists.

The albums final two songs do no less.  “By the Way” begins with a dancer’s elegance and proclivity for crisp and fluid changes of shape and motion.  And the concluding song “Try Home” is a subdued expression of what has come before… a brief and quiet introspection, and a curious beauty.

Released on La Buissonne.

Available at:  Bandcamp | eMusic | Amazon MP3